Images of our Final Home

John Telgren

What happens after God's people die? According to Jesus, those who believe in his will live even if they die (Jn 11:25). Jesus himself is the resurrection and the life. The Apostle Paul indicates that when you die, you go on to be with the Lord (Phil 1:23).

We usually refer to this as "going to Heaven." What is Heaven? The Hebrew word, "shamayim" and Greek word, "ouranos" both literally mean sky, which is also the word to talk about the place where God dwells (Ps 11:4) and the final destination of God's people (1 Pet 1:4). Ancient people sometimes referred to God's dwelling place as the "Third Heaven." However, Heaven is not the only word or concept scripture uses to speak of the final dwelling of God's people.

1. My Father's House. Jesus said that there were "many dwelling places/rooms" there (Jn 14:2). This is a place with enough room for everyone. Paul refers to it as a "building" and a "house not made with hands" (2 Cor 5:1). He contrasts our current home as a temporary "tent," with our permanent dwelling from Heaven (2 Cor 5:2-5).

2. Kingdom. God's "kingdom" does not always refer to the church. God's kingdom used to refer to Israel (Ex 19:6). Later, Jesus inaugurated the kingdom in his ministry (Lk 11:20; 17:21; Mk 9:1). Finally, there will be the consummation of the kingdom to come (2 Pet 2:11; 2 Tim 4:18). This future kingdom is called the "eternal kingdom" or "heavenly kingdom." Jesus will abolish all rule, authority, and power, and put all enemies under his feet, and deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor 15:24-26). Closely related to this image is the throne of God in Revelation. All of creation are in the heavenly throne room worshipping God who is still on the throne.

3. New Jerusalem. The final picture in scripture is an apocalyptic vision of New Jerusalem. The earthly Jerusalem was the place where God symbolically dwelt in the temple. However, in New Jerusalem, there is no temple because God lives among the people directly (Rev 21:22). There is no longer any death, sorrow, mourning, or pain because the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4-5). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the gates, and the names of the apostles of the lamb are on the foundation stones (Rev 21:12-14), a reminder that both Israel and the Church were involved in the plan for New Jerusalem. There is once again access to the tree of life (Rev 22:2), the curse of Adam has been done away with (Rev 22:3), and for the first time, God's people can see Yahweh face to face without dying (Rev 22:4)! God's people will "reign for ever and ever" (Rev 22:5), exercising dominion as God had intended from the beginning (Gen 1:28), but without the effects of sin.

4. Wedding Feast. One of the pictures of man being reunited with God is that of a wedding feast (Rev 19:7-9). Jesus is the groom, and the church is the bride. This expresses the commitment and deep love God has for his people.

5. Abraham's Bosom. This is also an image of a feast. In a parable, Jesus tells the story of Lazarus, a poor man who died and found himself being comforted in "Abraham's bosom" (Lk 16:19-25). In that culture, people reclined on their left elbow and ate with their right hand. The host sat at the far right, and the guest of honor would have been to his right. This put the guest of honor literally at the bosom of the host. There is some debate over how much of this to take as literal details since it is a parable. In any case, this images expresses being honored at a divine feast.

6. Paradise. "Paradise" is a Persian loan word that means, "Walled Garden." During the period before the New Testament, Jews began to use this word to speak of the place where the souls of the righteous go. Paul speaks of being caught to the third heaven into "paradise" (2 Cor 12:4). Jesus promised those who overcome that they would eat of the tree of life in the "Paradise of God" (Rev 2:7). This evokes images of the Garden of Eden that God created for mankind in the beginning. There, man walked with God face to face and had access to the tree of life. But they were driven from the garden due to sin. However, there will be a restoration to the tree of life and face-to-face fellowship with God in his eternal garden.